Fastest rise in drug use in south, study finds

There has been an alarming rise in recent drug use in Cork and Kerry, new figures show.

Use of illegal drugs within the last year in the Southern Regional Drug Task Force rose from 4.9% of adults in 2007 to 6.1% in 2011.

Recent drug use, or last-year use, is considered a better indicator of drug trends than lifetime use, which is use of any drug in a person’s life.

The figures are contained in a report published yesterday by the Department of Health, which is an update on a national drug prevalence study released last year.

The second bulletin of Drug Use in Ireland 2010/2011 provides a geographical breakdown of the national figures in the first bulletin by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs.

The Southern Region is one of only three regions which recorded a rise in recent drug use since the last drug survey in 2006 and 2007. The other regions are the Western Region and South Western Regional Drug Task Force (which encompasses south west Dublin, west Wicklow, and Kildare).

In the latter region, recent drug use jumped from 7.4% to 11.1%, but some researchers have cast doubt on the 2007 figure, believing it was too low.

Cannabis use has risen in three regions, including the southern, and either stabilised or fallen in the rest. Cocaine use has generally either stabilised or decreased across the regions.

Other figures show:

* The two other greater Dublin regions, the Northern and the Eastern (also including east Wicklow) recorded a significant drop in recent usage.

* In the Western Region (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon), recent drug usage rose from 4.2% to 5.1%.

* In three regions (North Western, Midlands, and Mid-Western) recent rates remained largely unchanged.

* There was a significant drop in the South Eastern region (down from 7.9% to 5.9%) and the North Eastern (5.4% to 4%).

From a national point of view, recent illegal drug use levels have remained unchanged at around 7%, but are still higher than the figure for 2002/2003 (5.6%).

“I welcome the finding in this regional report that the use of illegal drugs has stabilised in many regions since the last NACD survey in 2006 and in particular the decline in many regions along the east coast of the country,” said junior health minister Roisín Shortall, who is responsible for the drugs strategy.

“However, there is no room for complacency and we must continue to rigorously tackle problem drug use across Ireland.”

Dr Jean Long of the Health Research Board said: “Illicit drug use has either stabilised or decreased in most areas of the country — that’s very encouraging.

“In the Southern and Western regions there are increases, but I think that may reflect a normalisation with the rest of the country.”

Use of sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants have risen nationally and in most regions, including the southern, since 2007.

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